Sandboxing and the Mac App Store

As I met with developer friends at Macworld this year, a common discussion point was Apple’s forthcoming implementation of sandboxing on the Mac. As part of the continuing effort to keep the Mac secure, Apple is preparing to require that all apps sold through the Mac App Store comply with Apple’s sandboxing rules. Sandboxing in Mac OS X is the process of requiring apps to obtain permission for access to different parts of your Mac’s memory and file system. For instance, if you are create a text editor app, you shouldn’t need access to the Mac’s Address Book database. Indeed, making an app that seems harmless but then grabs and uploads personal information and data is exactly the kind of behavior Apple seeks to prevent. In essence, sandboxing partitions the different areas of your Mac only giving software developers access to those particular assets their apps reasonably require. A photo editing app, for instance, will not get access to your admin files. A calculator will not get access to your documents folder. I’m simplifying, but you get the point.

As such, Apple is adding sandboxing to Mac OS X. Sandboxing makes a lot of sense. It worked out really well for iOS and now Apple wants the same level of security on the Mac. However, there still are a lot of questions. For instance, what about apps that necessarily need to work across your Mac? Macro applications and text expansion tools work within several apps and, by their very nature, need access throughout your system in order to serve you. Likewise, some of our favorite productivity apps use small menu bar apps to provide an ever-present gateway into their functionality. Another example are FTP clients that allow you to upload files from anywhere in your computer. All of these applications are incredibly useful. Unfortunately, it also appears that all of these applications would violate of Apple’s looming sandboxing rules.

Nothing is in stone yet. The policy hasn’t been made final or implemented. However, the writing is on the wall and longtime Mac app developers are concerned. Is Apple’s efforts to implement sandboxing going to kill their apps? Nobody knows: everyone is worried.

At some point, Apple is going to throw the switch and start vetting all apps submitted for sale in the Mac App Store. Apps that don’t meet the sandboxing standards, it appears, will not be sold through the Mac App Store. This is a serious problem for app developers as users become more and more accustomed to buying their applications exclusively through the Mac App Store. (I buy nearly all of my apps there.) Moreover, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that one day the only way you can buy an app will be through the Mac App Store.

Sandboxing was originally set to begin in November, 2011. As both Apple and developers struggled to understand exactly what this meant, the deadline was pushed back further. Frankly, having talked to several developers, it seems like there is still a lot of confusion over sandboxing and, in my opinion, this should get pushed back to the next major Mac OS X release, 10.8.

While I have no objection to the idea of sandboxing on the Mac, I hope that Apple doesn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. From the outside, it appears that the Apple steamroller is gassing up and a lot of our favorite apps are sitting in its path. I believe there is a middle path here. Sandboxing can work if Apple is willing to consider being reasonable with apps that necessarily require broad access to your Mac, particularly from established developers. Maybe the reason this keeps getting delayed is because Apple is internally figuring out how to make that happen. Regardless, I can report that many developers are agitated about the possibility of sandboxing rolling them over in the future. I can only hope Apple will use enough foresight to keep that from happening. It would be a shame if we lost some of our favorite apps in this effort to make the platform more secure.

So as users what does all of this mean for us right now? It is hard to say. We could be looking at a serious threat to some of our favorite software or we could be tilting at windmills. Hopefully it is the latter not the former. In the meantime, as a software purchaser, this causes me to pause with respect to purchasing applications in the Mac App Store. While generally I’m a big fan of the Mac App Store, when it comes to apps that could potentially tread on the sandboxing rules, I’m hesitant. My concern is that they will eventually be banned from the Mac App Store, and any licenses I purchased there will no longer be available to me. As a result, if it’s an app that may run afoul of these new rules, buy it from the developer directly for now. Maybe in six months this will work out and not be a problem, but why take the risk?

The Android App Store Problem

Eric Schmidt predicts that in six months, iOS developers will be flocking to Android, even if they don’t like it. Ummm, think again.

Android’s marketshare continues to climb and that is presumably a good thing for Android but mere numbers does not create a vibrant app market. There need to be two pieces for a successful platform app store: 1. a trustworthy store, and 2. customers. Android has neither of these.

The Theoretical Android App Store

While there are no shortage of issues with Apple’s own App Store, there are a few things it really nails. Apple provides a safe and easy environment to deliver apps and seperate customers from their money. This is where Android misses the boat. If Google wants to attract developers, they shouldn’t worry so much about marketshare and instead focus on getting a reliable payment system and an app purchase environment where customers aren’t constantly getting stiffed. Amazon seems to be making the best efforts to fix this but there are some truly legendary stories about what a spectacular job they are doing screwing it up. With so many different form factors, screen sizes, and system specs, it is going to be a lot harder for Google (or somebody) to deliver the iOS App Store experience on Android.

“Free is Better! Hooray!”

Android owners don’t buy apps. With very few exceptions, every Android owner I’ve talked to is only interested in free apps. To hell with the user interface. Put ads everywhere. Just don’t charge any money. (Perhaps all of the on-screen ads explains the arms race of larger screen sizes.) I don’t mean this as some sort of character attack against Android owners, many of whom are very nice people. I just think that, for whatever reason, Android users are not interested in paying for mobile apps. I’ve been talking to Android and iOS owners about this for years and the theme is consistent. iOS owners buy lots of apps: Android owners don’t.

I don’t know if it is a lack of trust in the payment system or simply a culture of “free” but ask your Android toting friends how many apps they’ve purchased and the answer will be few, if any. The short of it is that Android devices could multiply like locusts but if people don’t buy apps for them, developers will stay away.

Multi-Platform is a Feature

Maybe this is obvious but as iCloud rolls out, users are going to add a new criteria to their app buying calculus. “Is it multi-platform?”

Just like the way even us ‘power users’ are getting hooked on Lion’s versioning and auto-saves, even the most die-hard Dropbox supporters are going to find themselves expecting data to migrate between their Macs, iPads, iPhones, and even Windows PCs.

With iCloud, there is no secret incantation, retina scan, or hacking involved. Your data just is. No longer will you have to consider whether the right folder is synced to the right app. Work on one device. Turn it off. Work on another device and pick up where you left off.

There is a price to brain dead syncing. From everything I’ve seen, in order to work, you’ve got to be working on the same app on every platform.

For the first time since the iOS arrived in our lives, using the same app on multiple platforms comes with an added benefit, data bliss. When users look at apps for their Mac or iOS devices, they are going to actively seek those with support on other platforms. Automatic data-syncing is a huge benefit and multi-platform is going to be a big deal for enlightened Mac and iOS developers.

Already there are some text editors supporting both iOS and Mac OS X. I think this will spill over into most productivity apps: PDF apps, outliners, mind mappers, graphics apps, and any app with a user generated data file. Expect to see a lot of familiar apps on unfamiliar platforms soon.


In episode 23 of Back to Work, my friend Dan Benjamin argued it is not possible to do two things really well at the same time. Specifically, Dan explained that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to seriously pursue two different big things. He used the example of starting an iOS app business while holding a day job. Dan made a good case that the attempt to do two things well results in you sucking at both.


I’m doing a lot of things at once. Am I torpedoing myself? Dan’s argument led to some soul searching about what I’ve been up to lately. I simultaneously agreed and disagreed with Dan throughout the show. At one point Merlin Mann used me as an example. I practice law by day and write technology by night. Dan explained that I didn’t count because I’m not a, “normal human.” That’s the one part that Dan got wrong. I’m very human and this stuff is really hard.

A Very Regular Human Indeed

I laugh when someone refers to me as a productivity guru. I am a mess. My mother chose well when she named me David. I spend my weekdays in the trenches with my clients against a seemingly endless stream of Goliaths. I spend my free time (the weeknights and weekends Dan was talking about) writing for MacSparky and podcasting with the Mac Power Users. Add to this my family, friends, and other social commitments and I quickly find I don’t have just two things. I have six or seven. That is my normal juggling routine. Now add to this the spinning chainsaw that is a 25 chapter book, due in just a little over a month, and you can see how I am well and truly screwed. Or at least it would seem. The thing is, right now I am having more fun than ever.

Saying No

Saying “no” is something I’ve only recently figured out but, like a religious convert, I’m exercising this particular muscle plenty. If you want to juggle, you have to learn to say no. Even jugglers have their limits. There are degrees of difficulty in saying no. Television and video games are the easy ones. The day I decided to stop responding to every MacSparky e-mail was a tough “no”. (I still read everything you send me.) It gets even harder when you turn down opportunities. In the past six months I’ve turned down some great opportunities including writing for some really smart people, sitting on an American Bar Association planning board, and expanding my career. I don’t have any regrets with any of those, but they weren’t easy. The real corker, however, is saying no to your family and friends. That is a fourth degree no. This stuff is hard.

The key to it all for me is balance. I try my very best to give the things and people I love attention and accept that it is not possible for me to be all things to all people at any one time. I’m also not too hard on myself. I do my best and try each day to get a little better.

Where Dan’s words ring true for me is this very month as I push to complete a book. It is this extra commitment with the obscene amounts of extra time it requires that I get Dan. Now things are nuts. The next month is going to requires me to say no to some things I’d rather not. It is a temporary thing and will pass soon enough. If every month was like this one, though, I’d fall apart, just as Dan predicts.

Big and Small Touches

Wouldn’t it be great though if I could constantly juggle all of this? If I could run a law practice, blog, podcast, speak, and write books and not go insane? That would make me awesome with my very own superpower. That, however, would also be bullshit.

Writing the book is my edge case. Normally I seem to get by just fine with the law practice and MacSparky. I think, for me at least, this juggling act isn’t a super power but instead a selfish thing. I really like everything I do right now and I’m addicted to the big and small touches.

Just looking at my law/MacSparky juggle, I see these two things scratching very different itches.

I became a lawyer because I enjoy helping people. Stop laughing. You’d be surprised how many lawyers find themselves in this profession for exactly the same reason. People come to me with some really big problems. My clients need help and I can make the difference between pulling out of a nose dive and making a big smoking hole in the ground. My work as a lawyer has a major impact on their lives. Those are my big touches

MacSparky, on the other hand, leads to many small touches. I get e-mails from people all over the world explaining how some little thing I posted or said made their lives better. I love those small touches. When the Mac at Work book shipped, I received an e-mail from a single mom who explained how she used a bunch of my workflows from the book to shorten her work day, saving her about 10 hours a week (500 hours a year) for more time with her daughter. When I wonder why I’m working so hard on this next book and saying “no” so often, that e-mail is why. Both the big and small touches that mean a lot for me.

Dan is Right

Despite all of the above yammering, Dan is right. You really can’t give two things everything. The trick in all of this is finding that tipping point when outside interests go from being simply a hobby or dabbling into the pedal-to-the-metal Next Big Thing. Recognizing that moment and having the guts to jump on it is key. That is what I think Dan was talking about and he is absolutely right. My only qualification is that this idea of just one thing shouldn’t prevent you from dabbling and hobbies. You never know where those things might lead. (I think Dan would agree with me on this.)

Since I’ve accepted Dan’s argument, I’m agreeing that if I did just law, or just wrote about technology, or just podcasted, I’d no doubt be able to commit more energy and be better at the one thing. However, I’m still not interested in picking just one. Maybe I’m too gutless to jump but I don’t think that is the case.

Emerging from this rabbit hole, I realize that at this point in my life, I couldn’t imagine myself giving up the big touches or the little touches. I’m not willing to jump on just one thing because I’m enjoying several things way too much. My life is more enriching now because of all the things I do. In other words, I intend to continue juggling.

The Lodsys Lawsuit and Apple’s Opportunity

So Lodsys made good on its threat. This really isn’t surprising. They sent the demand letter and now they’ve filed suit.

Lawsuits are filed every day. Crooks sue homeowners for tripping over the sprinkler when breaking in. Crazy stuff happens. All you need to file a lawsuit is a few pieces of paper and the filing fee. The trick, as Lodsys will discover, is proving your case.

I view these lawsuits as a crossroads for Apple. They could parachute in and protect their developers or they could abandon them as they enter the meat grinder that is patent litigation.

It seems to me that there really is only one choice for Apple, to step in and defend. There are a lot of reasons for this starting with the most important, it is in Apple’s own best interest. If Apple lets developers get sued for using Apple’s API’s, developers are going to to go elsewhere. Gold rush or not, nobody wants to get sued. While I’m sure the developer agreement has some draconian terms that say Apple has no responsibility, I don’t think Apple is going to leave these developers hanging out this way.

While the cost of patent litigation is truly daunting, Apple has the money and is already well lawyered-up. None of these defendants are in a position to defend themselves as well as Apple could.

Finally, stepping in is a huge win for Apple on the public relations front. Developers will see that and the iOS will benefit. If Apple were to take the other route and and leave the developers on their own to deal with this litigation, the exact opposite would happen.

As I’ve said before, I don’t possess a lick of knowledge about how to run a patent case but I have seen first hand the way litigation kills small companies. I suspect that in the next 30 days, the lid will come off and we will find out how far Apple is willing to go for its developers. For everyone’s sake (including Apple) I hope it is a long way. is sponsored by Bee Docs Timeline 3D. Make a timeline presentation with your Mac.

About Lodsys

One of the cardinal rules of this website is that I will never provide any legal advice. Not only is this to keep me from getting sued for malpractice but also because this part of my life is separate from that part of my life. Nevertheless, people have asked and I think it is time to weigh in with my own thoughts.

First a little background

I don’t practice intellectual property law. I don’t know anything about it. I have never represented a client concerning an intellectual property issue. I have no more knowledge about this stuff than any of the other Internet carnival barkers out there. If you read anything in this post and used it to make a legal decision in your own life, that would make you a moron. If you’ve got a legal problem, get a lawyer.
The one thing I am sure about when an intellectual property issue arises for one of my clients is to run, not walk, to the nearest IP specialist and hand them off.

What I also know is that patent and trademark cases are one of the most efficient ways to kill a company. It is like terminal cancer, heart disease, and a hernia all rolled up into one ball of pain. I tell my clients that litigating in the patent court is the same as building a bonfire of $100 bills. Burn baby burn. Perhaps it’s not clear, but I am not a fan of patent and trademark litigation.

What we know, now

It is undisputed that Apple entered a license agreement with Lodsys. Nobody on the outside, however, has seen it. I suspect somewhere in that agreement is a critical paragraph that talks about the extent and scope of the license. It either applies to independent app developers using the Apple produced API or doesn’t. That is what a lot of very expensive lawyers are going to spend the next year arguing about and ultimately, barring settlement, a smart person in a black robe will decide.

Before Apple went public on this, one possible outcome was that this matter would just go away. Indeed, the first draft of this post included an extensive discussion of this possibility. I reasoned that if Apple’s own reading of the license agreement was that the license didn’t extend to independent app developers, Apple would quietly enter negotiations with Lodsys to amend the agreement, write a check, and be done with it. This would be done quietly because Apple does not want to open the door for every other software license agreement and, frankly, because it is Apple.

That did not happen. To the contrary, Apple very publicly states that it has reviewed the license agreement and believes it applies to the app developers. I suspect Apple attorneys burned the midnight oil during the last week reaching that conclusion so such a definitive statement could be made.

I don’t think Apple has the disdain for its developers that some imply. Nor do I believe they will leave developers in the lurch. The stakes are too high for Apple. If independent app developers can get sucked into intellectual-property litigation at the drop of a hat, a lot of them would leave the platform. I certainly would. I’m happy that Apple has stepped in. What started out looking like David versus Goliath now looks like Goliath versus the Imperial Death Star.

Although I’ve seen none of the underlying documents in this case and don’t pretend to understand the patents at issue, I suspect this matter really boils down to a matter of contract. The Lodsys/Apple license is either broad enough to cover these app developers or not. In either case, I suspect Apple is going to do right and all future Apple software licenses just got about five pages longer to make sure this never happens again. is sponsored by Bee Docs Timeline 3D. Make a timeline presentation with your Mac.


Over the past decade, Apple has turned the technology world on its head with the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. All of these were transformative device to change the landscape of consumer electronics. It has also fueled legendary growth for the company with significant profits every year arriving on products that did not exist the year before.

At some level, however, none of these products were particularly surprising. Rumors of the iPhone swirled for years before it arrived. Likewise, all of us nerds were pining away for the iPad long before Apple bestowed it upon us.

So now that we have all of these devices the question arises, what is next? If Apple wants to continue to grow, it needs to continue to innovate and amaze us. So what is the next innovative product? There are several contenders:

The Apple Television

One popular source of speculation is the idea that Apple will build its own television set. I can see it in my mind’s eye: a monolithic slab of Ivesian industrial design with just the right amount of glass and aluminum and a remote controller with no buttons but a pulsing Apple icon. The trouble is, I’m not sure even I, a veteran of countless Apple launch day lines, would buy one. People don’t buy new TVs like they do iPods or iPhones. Moreover, the TV business is cutthroat and low margin, which is not Apple’s cup of tea. In order to make an Apple television work Apple would have to transform the experience and I’m not sure they can. This would rely on cooperation of networks and content providers, which is outside Apple’s control. In short, the Apple television sounds like small profits and big headaches. Perhaps Apple will prove me wrong but I don’t see that as the next big thing.

The iSomethingElse

Apple has experimented in the past with making printers, external hard drives, cameras, and other consumer electronics. The rub is, the company has done none of that since Steve came back. These again are small margin industries where Apple can’t change the world the same way it did with the iPhone and iPad.

I believe the Apple engineers are in iterate mode improving upon existing technologies for the iPhone and iPad (and to a lesser extent the Mac) so they can remain ahead of the competition. I do not believe they have cooked up some new device that none of us thought of to change the world, again. Put simply, the next Big Thing isn’t a thing at all. Instead, I think it is glue to pull the existing Apple products line together even tighter. It is time for iGlue.


This is no revalation. The Internet is buzzing with talks of the mystereous Apple server farm and iCloud. Apple has built an amazing product family. Now it’s time to work on family relations. Apple needs to turn itself into the digital hub of our lives. We should be able to buy an Apple device, type in account credentials, and have immediate access to all of our digital bits. By this I don’t mean just songs we’ve bought from iTunes. I think it should be documents, pictures, media, and everything else in our home folders. The whole enchilada.

I have talked to Apple employees and they get this. There is no mystery that the world is turning cloud-based and those who ignore this will get left behind. I think this is a challenge for Apple. Clearly, synchronizing and cloud-based solutions are Google’s game, not Apple’s. Can Apple succeed outside of its comfort zone? I think so.

The very public failure that was the MobileMe launch has not faded from anyone’s memory, especially Apple’s. Common wisdom is that Apple can’t “do” the Internet. I think common wisdom is wrong. While Apple has tinkered with the Internet so far, I don’t think Apple has “done” the Internet yet. That is about to change.

With billions sitting in the bank, Apple can build the massive data centers and hire the required talent to make them humm. The only variable left is heart, and I suspect we’ll know just how much Apple’s heart is in the iCloud in the next few months.

So what if Apple brought its considerable resources to bear on the Internet problem? What would we see? I think it is a service that is not as aggressive as Google with new features but really nails those everyday features consumers need with a gorgeous interface and panache. Apple never overreaches with the first steps in a new venture. The MobileMe fiasco will make them even more conservative with a big cloud syncing rollout. So will I get my whole enchilada on day one? Probably not. Nevertheless, I believe the next big thing will be iGlue and when the dust settles, people will stop saying that Apple cannot “do” the Internet. is sponsored by Bee Docs Timeline 3D. Make a timeline presentation with your Mac.

Thoughts on The Post PC World

I watched the Apple Keynote tonight and was struck by how often I heard the term “Post PC.” When Steve Jobs and Apple start using these catch phrases, it is no accident. Apple has its own lexicon that starts internally but, at some point, often finds its way into Keynote speeches and product descriptions.

I believe “Post PC” is the newest of these phrases. We’ve all speculated about the future of technology in light of the explosive growth of iOS and the growing legions of mobile competitors. To the people at Apple, I don’t believe this dialogue is anything new. Internally, I think they’ve been planning this for years.

Looking back, I suspect Apple first started contemplating the Post PC world when iPods were selling like hotcakes. I’m certain that by the time the iPhone showed up, Apple’s Post PC plans were already in full swing. When the iPad appeared, the shoe dropped for the rest of us. Steve Jobs confirmed this last year at the AllThingsD conference when he talked of trucks and cars and how the PCs we all know and love are going to become the trucks of technology: still useful, but not necessary for most.

This all culminates today with Apple’s repeated mantra about the “Post PC” world. Why are we just hearing about this now? Because Apple is already sitting on top of the mountain in this new order.

I’ve written before about Mac user’s fear of returning to those dark days. I suspect there is a certain degree of that also ingrained in the Apple corporate culture. I’m not sure I’d call it fear so much as resolve with this second chance. Never again.

Never again will Apple blow its lead. Never again will Apple seize defeat from the jaws of victory. Never again in this new Post PC World. is sponsored by Bee Docs Timeline 3D. Make a timeline presentation with your Mac.

Data Liberation, MultiMarkdown, and OPML

Fletcher Penney has been hard at work on MultiMarkdown 3.0. Perhaps one of the most inspired new features is the ability to work with OPML files. (Don’t know what OPML is? Read this.) Fletcher let me in on the secret early and it is absolutely nerd-tastic.

The Revolution

We are on the verge of something remarkable with our data. Simple data portability is here and it is killing the stranglehold of any one software developer over our digital toolbelts. This option-rich environment is letting people build their own workflows. For a change, the machines are working for us. How did we get here? I see a few reasons:

The Mobile Explosion

With the iPhone, iPad, and App store, Apple has turned the world of mobile computing on its head. Every step of the way, competitors laughed, then feared, then copied. People are digging these new multiple devices and, as a result, there are a lot of operating systems to play in.

Multiple Operating Systems

The whole Mac vs. PC thing arises from one dimension, desktop computing. Those days are over. There are now more operating systems than ever and people are no longer working in just one. I currently use three daily (four if you count the Web). Once the Tablet-aganza gets in full swing there will be even more options. People need to move their data between these operating systems. The text, markdown, and OPML standards are the foot soldiers used by every app to make this happen.

Home-Brew Apps, Inc.

An App stores supporting these new platforms create historical opportunities for small developers . Size doesn’t matter if you have a good idea and execute on it. These little guys are competing where only multi-million dollar companies dared a few years ago. The result is a rich environment of options where ten people can have their favorite App in any category and they are all different.

Cloud Sync

We finally have a way to easily sync files between computers, operating systems, and platforms. There is a reason everyone gets misty eyed when we talk about Dropbox: we remember how hard it used to be to sync. Now that syncing is easy, the data needs to work everywhere.

Just the Beginning

Us nerds are just figuring this all out. Things are only going to get easier and this speaks well for our future computing experiences. No longer will we all need to bend our habits to the foibles of a few applications. Instead we are going to pick the apps that work the way we think and move our data between them without a second thought. I can’t wait.

Meetings vs. Electrons

Several posts have cropped up lately concerning using an iPad in meetings. Ben Brooks is for it. Randy Murray, not so much while Eddie Smith walks the middle path. This raises a bigger question about the role of technology in meetings and since it is hard for me to have a single unpublished thought, here I go.

I specifically recall the first time I confronted the issue of electrons and meetings. It was 1995 and I was talking to a group of clients about some pretty serious troubles. The clients (all three of them) had shiny new Apple Newtons and were making plenty of “bleep, blop, blorg” sounds while I was busy trying to keep them from getting sued into oblivion. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. As a result of that single event, for a long time pen and paper was my only meeting technology and I skipped the Newton revolution.

A few years ago the Livescribe Pen showed up at Macworld. The Livescribe pen is great in a meeting. It records your pen strokes on its microdot paper letting you create a PDF of your notes. In addition to digital backup, it optionally records your conversation and indexes the recording to the pen strokes. Tap the pen on the page where you scribbled “fanny pack” and the pen plays the recording it took while your boss talked about his holiday.

My note taking skills were never that good. Using the Livescribe pen, I now jot down signposts and instead focus my attention on the other people in the room. Perhaps it is less efficient having to go back and listen (or at least index) later but my peanut-like brain usually gets something out of the review and I know I get more information out of the meeting attendees when I’m focused on them instead of scribble scrabble. So I was happy using the Livescribe pen. My nerdy nougat filling found a way to use a gadget in meetings. Then the iPad showed up.

iPad Notes

For the last month, I’ve been desperately trying to replace the Livescribe Pen with any of the legions of note taking apps for the iPad. We are recording a Mac Power Users episode on taking notes later today and I’m here to report that, after a month of research, none of them really worked for me.

Despite some very smart developers best intents, I didn’t find an app that could keep up with my Livescribe pen. There are a variety of iPad note taking apps. Some of them let you zoom in on the screen and later shrink it. Others will record and let you drop in graphics. When the bullets were flying in a busy meeting however, they all were more distracting than helpful. Drawing words with my fingers just didn’t work. Perhaps it was all that loud music I used to listen to or my inherent lack the fine motor control but, despite my best efforts, everything I wrote came out looking like the half drunken scrawlings of a semi-literate yak herder. I bought a stylus for the iPad, which is kind of nifty for diagraming but useless for words.

The closest I came to making the iPad work as a capture device in meetings was iThoughtsHD. iThoughts makes it really easy to build mind maps and it is wicked fast. When a meeting strays in to brain storming, iThoughts kept up with a pen and paper mind map just fine.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Great Meetings

Although I’m not sold on the iPad to take notes in meetings, I have found a role for it. The iPad serves as an all knowing, all seeing, source of information. Because I’ve incorporated so much of my world into the iPad, I find it really useful as a reference in meetings. If a question comes up about some document, chances are, I have an annotated version of it sitting in GoodReader. Want to talk about a complicated brief? I probably already have an iThoughts outline of it drawn up. Trying to figure out dates, open the calendar. I’ve also got OmniFocus task lists, Simplenote text files, and Safari to answer just about any question that comes up.

A quick war story

I was in one of those smoke filled rooms for an “important” meeting. One guy was doing most of the talking. To protect the guilty, I’ll call him “Blowhard.” Anyway, Blowhard starts going on and on about how the contract says X, not Y. Everyone in the room is raising their eyebrows thinking this Blowhard guy really has it together. Meanwhile I’m drilling into GoodReader and plugging it into the projector. Up comes the contract with my bookmark directly on the paragraph in question, with my highlights showing that, sadly, Blowhard has it wrong. The contract says Y, not X. I even had a little annotation commenting on it. Behold the power of iPad.

The iPad is invaluable as a reference in a meeting. It is so good at this role that using it to take notes gets in the way. I’d rather take notes somewhere else so the iPad is free to be my Hitchhiker’s guide to everything.

The Wall

The problem I’ve always had with laptops in meetings is that they inevitably feel like you are erecting a wall between yourself and the other person. As a result, I rarely use a laptop in a meeting. When I do use them, it is to display a Keynote presentation or an indexed set of PDF documents. Those roles, however, are quickly being usurped by the iPad. If you must use a laptop in a meeting, have other attendees sit next to you or project it so they don’t wonder if you are twittering.

Summarize, Please

To answer the question, I do see a use for the iPad in meetings, but not to take notes. Instead, I use it to make me look brilliant. I’m okay with that. is sponsored by Bee Docs Timeline 3D. Make a timeline presentation with your Mac.